botanical

I’ve visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens many times over the years, and I’ve always found the gardens a place of beauty and tranquility. I often spend hours deep in the gardens making pictures of flowers, exploring the courtyards and terraces for peaceful scenes.

Having recently been introduced to the work of Samuel Zeller, I was excited to make a photographic study of the Conservatory. Truthfully, on past visits, the Conservatory had been my least favorite area of the garden. I simply couldn’t see how to isolate my subject in an environment where there were so many competing elements - pipes, hoses, and casement windows. It hadn’t occurred to me to incorporate the elements of the Conservatory into my photographs. I had neglected to see the beauty of the form and function of the architecture itself.

Once I began to visualize the architectural elements of the Conservatory as a backdrop for the tropical plants and butterflies — and even more importantly — to see the elements as worthy subjects in and of themselves, I began to see artful photographs at every turn.

The Conservatory includes a central dome house and three wings, with 10,000 square feet of display area under glass. The height of the top of the dome is 63 feet. It’s an impressive structure, and I quickly found myself falling in love with the place and deeply in the flow of good work.

Zeller’s photographs are enhanced by the textured glass of the greenhouses he visited. He uses the condensation along the glass panes to create visual interest and he processes his photographs with a consistent color palette and style. When I turn the pages of his book, Botanical, I am transported to the Conservatory. I feel the mist on my face. I breathe in the warm, moist air. I smell the soil. I hear the vibration of hummingbird wings and the cascade of running water.

"In a photographic interpretation of classical botanical illustrations from the 18th to 20th Century, Samuel explores the refracted reality caught in the botanical gardens greenhouse’s translucent glass." —Rebecca Fulleylove

Photography is, in the simplest way, learning to love what is. I think of how hard I work to control and direct and plan . . . and then I sink into the ease of acceptance, and I feel a deep contentment that this work teaches and heals me.